2021: Georgia Van de Zande

“Gracious and level-headed,” Georgia teaches with “passion, precision, and joy.”

Amidst the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic, Georgia stepped in to help entirely redesign a hands-on course, core to the mechanical engineering curriculum. Per the course’s theme, “Home Alone, Together,” Georgia created an “engineering and artistic marvel” of a gameboard with challenges based on the iconic movie. She handled the logistics for shipping ten tons of supplies so each student in the course could make robots to tackle the challenges she had designed.

Recipient of the 2021 Goodwin Medal, Georgia Van de Zande, is a Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering. She works in the Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) lab, where she focuses on drip irrigation systems and mechanical engineering education. Georgia has been involved across the spectrum of mechanical engineering education, from serving as a teaching assistant, lab assistant, and co-lecturer in courses to co-developing curriculum, mentoring teams, and helping students craft communications as a fellow in the department’s communications lab. She also taught in the Women’s Technology Program, a four-week mechanical engineering summer program for high school women.

Indeed, writes one professor, Georgia has had a “profound, broad, and positive educational impact on the entire curriculum of [the MechE] department.” Students and faculty speak to the challenge of teaching design, saying that one must be comfortable with ambiguity and balance “advising a team and letting the team learn from their own mistakes. Georgia’s gift… is that this balance comes to her effortlessly.”

Students write that she masterfully creates “an environment that empower[s] students to learn, be creative, and experiment.” Georgia has a “respectful boldness,” an unusual ability to compassionately help others question their assumptions in a way that “promotes discussion rather than defensiveness.”

Georgia was the teaching assistant in a senior design course whose theme was “super!” Ever imaginative, she led a process to design and manufacture over 200 plushies so every student in the course had one with their features “to represent the superhero within each student.”